Part 6 of 9
Position Breakdown and Off-Season Analysis: Defensive Line
Elvis Dumervil, 2013 base salary: $12 million: Doom returns as the highest-paid defender on Denver’s squad for a third straight year.
Statistically most would think he had a great season, but that is quite the contrary.
Overall he graded out as the 44th best defensive end in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus and teammates such as Robert Ayers, were graded ahead of him in terms of effectiveness per snap.
Most of his 11 sacks were in garbage time with the game mostly over.
However, he was superb against the Chargers on Monday Night Football and at Baltimore, where his pressures and sacks were the difference in the game. Dumervil was neutralized by opposing tackles in many games, including by Jared Veldheer of Oakland, Chiefs rookie Guard Jeff Allen playing his first game at left tackle, New England's Nate Solder, and Jeron Bushrod from New Orleans.
He was shut out and had a minimal impact in most games, including the playoff game against Baltimore while going up against a mediocre tackle in Michael Oher.
His play certainly wasn't worth $12 million as many questions are raised. He graded out at the 22nd best pass rushing defensive end and 54th against the run according to Pro Football Focus. Ouch. He also committed eight penalties as his hands sometimes tend to hit the faces of many opposing linemen which was 6th worst in the NFL.
He ended the season with 54 tackles, 11 sacks, 11 QB hits, 39 QB pressures, and six forced fumbles. Moving forward Doom will retain his starting spot at right defensive end and will hopefully learn from his lack of consistency in 2012.
Should he have another year such as this past one, Denver would without a doubt think about parting ways with his huge contract. For now his play is still pivotal for the Broncos' defense. Future: Starting right defensive end.
Derek Wolfe, 2013 base salary: $480,000: Denver's first selection of the 2012 Draft became a vital part of their second overall ranked defense. Wolfe, who is a more of a natural defensive tackle, kicked outside to strong side end when Jason Hunter went down with a season ending injury.
He held his own at his new position as he graded out as the 54th overall best end in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus, but the ranking is misleading.
Wolfe was fantastic against the run and occupied blockers allowing the linebackers to roam, but he was one of the worst pass rushers in the league, even though he managed to get six sacks on the year.
He graded out as the ninth best end against the run in the NFL. His strength stands out on the field and most tackles had major problems with his size, considering he has a defensive tackle's body.
Wolfe registered 44 tackles, 7 QB hits, 13 QB hurries, and 31 stops (a stop is when a tackle results in a loss or no gain of yards for the offense).
Impressively he didn't miss a tackle all season and would always bring down the ball carrier once he got his hands on him. The former second round pick out of Cincinnati is very smart and technically sound as a lineman, playing well beyond his years. He should kick back inside next year to tackle. Future Starting defensive tackle.
Robert Ayers, 2013 base salary: $1.06 million: Ayers has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career in Denver, but most of the time he has remained an average overall player whose effectiveness is questionable every season.
He was the starting end in 2011 and his play was graded out as the 46th best end in football that year. What he brings to the table is a guy who can set the edge due to his power and have an impact with his run defense.
He would spell Dumervil and Derek Wolfe occasionally as he only played in 31 percent of the defense's snaps. He was one of the few in the playoff game against Baltimore who played effectively, but it wasn't anything substantial (no one was).
Ayers could potentially be trade bait going into the draft as there might be some 3-4 teams that would want to try him out at linebacker. If he does return he will be fighting for his life as the Broncos are sure to bring in some upgraded backups. Future: Traded or cut at some point.
Jason Hunter, 2013 base salary: Free agent: The seven-year veteran was penciled in to start opposite Elvis Dumervil at the beginning of the year before he went down with torn triceps in the preseason.
The injury wasn't to his knee so the Broncos should bring him back on a one year deal worth around $900,000-$1 million, so that he can compete to start next season. Future: Will compete to start and should contribute in some capacity in 2013.
Jeremy Beal, 2013 base salary: $405,000: Beal was a seventh round pick out of Oklahoma in 2011 and has yet to be on the active roster. He spent his rookie year on the practice squad developing to compete for a roster spot in 2012.
His play was fantastic in the preseason before going down with a light knee injury. He would have most likely made the roster had it not occurred.
It depends on how he recovers from the injury but Beal should get another shot to make the team and given his work ethic that John Fox loves, he has a decent chance to do just that. Future: Fringe player in a make or break year for his NFL career.
Overview: Denver's depth at the position is of great concern and they were lucky that the unit wasn't hit hard by injuries.
With Derek Wolfe kicking back inside to tackle and Dumervil's struggles, the Broncos will look to free agency and the Draft to reinforce the position.
The Broncos could take a chance on Giants' defensive end Osi Umenyoria, who is looking for a fresh start elsewhere. But Umenyoria will probably be overpaid by a team desperate for a pass rush and who thinks he still has Pro Bowl ability.
Veteran options that would be reasonably priced would include former Browns and Eagles end Juqua Parker, the Rams' William Hayes, Atlanta's Lawrence Sidbury, and Lions' end Lawrence Jackson.
All have at least four years of experience and would only require around $2-$3 million a year. They can spot start, rotate in, and be a positive presence in the locker room. Looking to the Draft is another possibility that could work as this year's draft class is loaded with pass rushers.
Moving forward the ends unit of the Broncos is thin with depth and now that Derek Wolfe is likely to kick back inside, they need at least one starting quality player. Getting a youngster in the first round such as LSU's Sam Montgomery, Datone Jones of UCLA, and BYU's Ziggy Ansah, are players who could step in and have an impact in the pass rush.
How this unit is constructed this offseason is vital for the Broncos' championship hopes.